DOT Suspends 26 US Flights From Chinese Airlines

26 US-bound flights operated by Chinese airlines have been canceled by the Department of Transportation (DOT). The move from the federal government body comes amid a row concerning coronavirus. It specifically concerns the measures put in place by China when passengers test positive upon arrival in the country.

An eye for an eye

26 flights might seem like an oddly specific number of cancellations for the DOT to enforce. However, the figure has been chosen to match the measures taken by Chinese authorities, who have canceled the same number of flights operated by American, Delta, and United Airlines. But why did these cancellations arise?


Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, China has retained some of the strictest restrictions, especially regarding travel. According to AP News, as part of a recent ‘circuit-breaker’ drive, it implemented a new policy on August 7th. This requires flights to be suspended if 4% of those onboard test positive upon arrival. Reuters adds that an 8% rate results in a second suspension.

Before that, the threshold for a two-week operational suspension was nine positive tests on one flight. In such instances, carriers also had the option to reduce their capacity on the route in question to no more than 40%. This has ultimately resulted in the shelving of 26 US-operated flights. However, believing the Chinese system to be unfair, the DOT has retaliated with cancellations of its own.

Until China reopens its borders airlines like China Southern will not get back to pre-COVID levels. Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying

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Which flights are affected?

So, which carriers’ flights constitute the 26 services the US DOT has chosen to cancel to match the disruption caused by China’s new policy? Overall, it seems that the agency has targeted high-value routes to ensure that its actions have a greater impact, with seven Air China flights to New York JFK being axed.

Meanwhile, the remaining cancellations pertain to services to another key US air hub, namely the West Coast facility of Los Angeles International (LAX). The 19 shelved services to the Californian airport would have been operated by Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines. The dates of the affected flights range between September 5th and September 28th.

Understandably, the DOT’s move generated uproar on the Chinese side, with Reuters noting that a spokesperson for its embassy in the US described it as “extremely irresponsible.” Nevertheless, the DOT defended its actions, saying that China’s policy is “premised on circumstances entirely outside of the carriers’ control.” It added that it “[reserves] the right to take additional action” should China add more restrictions.

Traffic between China and the US is considerably lower than before the pandemic. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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Not the first case of retaliatory cancellations

As it happens, this isn’t the only time the US has canceled Chinese flights as a retaliatory move. Indeed, in January this year, China mandated the cancellation of more than 60 flights from the US as a coronavirus prevention measure. This included 44 operated by US carriers, with the DOT later choosing to respond by canceling the same number of Chinese-operated US-bound flights.

What do you make of the DOT’s latest wave of cancellations? Have you flown between the US and China in recent months? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Sources: AP News, Reuters

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